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Afghanistan — 

The Battle Line 
is Drawn 

By Irwin Silber 

ISMLita, . ■ 

Afghanistan — 

The Battle Line 
is Drawn 

Irwin Silber 



Line of March Publications 
Copyright ®1980 

Line of March Publications is a center for the publication and 
distribution of theoretical materials contributing to the development 
of a general line for the communist movement in the United States. 
This center is one of several projects of: 

The Institute for Scientific Socialism 

964 Valencia Street 

San Francisco, C A 94110 

Typesetting and printing by: 
FITS Printing, San Francisco, CA 

university of orison library 



Recent developments in Afghanistan impact the U.S. revolutionary 
movement at a fragile moment in its history. While U.S. imperialism is 
becoming increasingly aggressive around the world and stepping up 
attacks against the working class within this country, the mass anti- 
imperialist movement is at an ebb and the working class lacks a vanguard 
revolutionary party to provide clarity and direction to the mass struggle. 
Indeed, U.S. Marxist-Leninists lack unity on a coherent and com- 
prehensive international line to project before the U.S. working class, 
and remain defined largely by their rejection of the non-revolutionary 
line of modern revisionism, headquartered in the Communist Party of the 
Soviet Union, and their recent demarcation from the class collabora- 
tionist line headquartered in the Communist Party of China. 

Under such circumstances, it is tempting for anti-imperialists and 
Marxist-Leninists to try to avoid a complex problem such as that posed 
by events in Afghanistan. Arguments are made that intense struggle over 
such a question would only further divide the ranks of genuine 
revolutionary forces; that taking a firm stand on Afghanistan might 
threaten the movement's delicate ties to the broad masses; even that too 
much attention is given to international issues preventing revolutionaries 
from getting down to the "real work" of organizing the U.S. working 
class around "its own" problems. 

Yet this approach is exactly the opposite of what is needed. The very 
complexity of the international problem requires that Marxist-Leninists 
give it all the more attention. The use being made of the Soviet 
intervention in Afghanistan by U.S. imperialism requires that Marxist- 
Leninists express a clear and firm view opposed to U.S. imperialism 
before the masses, and it is precisely because differences exist, that 
rigorous and thorough struggle over them must receive the highest 

It is only this orientation to the various political and theoretical 
questions that confront the working class that will enable U.S. Marxist- 

Leninists to lead our movement out of its present state of confusion. It is 
only through rigorous struggle that firm unity on international line and 
other aspects of a general revolutionary line be built. And it is only when 
unity on line is achieved, that U.S. Marxist-Leninists will be able to unite 
in a single vanguard party able to function as the advanced detachment of 
the U.S. working class. 

In our view, this orientation is expressed concretely in the call for U.S. 
Marxist-Leninists to build a broad rectification movement to review the 
history of the U.S. working class movement, examine the concrete 
conditions of the world situation today and the particularities of the U.S., 
and forge a correct general line for the U.S. communist movement. Such 
a rectification movement must take up every political and theoretical 
question posed by the class struggle as it unfolds, even when events 
interrupt the neat and well-laid plans and agendas of Marxist-Leninists 
for theoretical work. 

The rapid developments in the Afghan revolution confront U.S. 
communists with such questions. We publish this pamphlet as a 
contribution to answering the questions posed by this particular situation 
and as a contribution to the rectification movement in general. 

Editorial Board 
Line of March 
A Marxist-Leninist Journal of 

Every revolution has bound up within it, to a greater or lesser degree, 
the principal questions of our historical epoch. In the final analysis, these 
questions come down to the contradiction between the dying imperialist 
system and those who objectively stand in opposition to it: the 
proletariat, oppressed peoples and nations, socialism. 

Each revolution has its particularity, that set of unique conditions 
which give shape and form to the revolutionary struggle of the masses 
and determine the particular course of their revolution. But each 
revolution likewise has its universality in that it reflects, is a part of, and 
affects the main revolutionary direction of our epoch. 

The revolutionary struggle of the people of Afghanistan, then, must be 
viewed in this dual context: its particularity in terms of the class 
contradictions within Afghanistan and its intersection with the overall 
development of world events. 

In the recent period, the Afghan revolution reached a critical turning 
point. Significant gains registered since revolutionary forces came to 
power in April 1978 were seriously threatened by the growth of a 
counter-insurgency launched by reactionary class elements in Af- 
ghanistan and supported by agents and allies of U.S. imperialism. The 
very question of who would hold state power in Afghanistan was being 
posed by the rapid development of events. 

In these circumstances, the Soviet Union intervened with sizeable 
military forces and secured a new government in Kabul with the aim of 
defeating the counter-revolution both politically and militarily. Mos- 
cow's interest in the outcome of the struggle in Afghanistan was clearly 
conditioned principally by its concern that this neighboring country 
should not be utilized by imperialism to pose a threat to the USSR's 
national security. 

U.S. imperialism has responded to the Soviet invasion in Afghanistan 
with the promotion of an atmosphere of international crisis and the 
promulgation of what is now being called the Carter Doctrine. This 
doctrine declares the area of the Persian Gulf one of such vital interest to 
the security of the U.S., that "any means necessary, including military 
force," will be employed to preserve the status quo there. The Carter 
Doctrine was accompanied by a rash of other moves all designed to show 
that U.S. imperialism means business. Among these moves are the 

cancellation of grain sales to the Soviet Union, resumption of massive 
military assistance to Pakistan, the granting of China "most favored 
nation" trade status and permitting the sale of war-related materials to 
the People's Republic, a 12% increase in the U.S. military budget, the 
lifting of "restraints" on the CIA, and the re-establishment of a 
mechanism for the military draft. And in order to dramatize the 
"seriousness" of it all, President Jimmy Carter has initiated a moral 
crusade for either a cancellation or a boycott of the Olympic Games 
scheduled to be held in Moscow this summer. 

What is the significance of these events? What stand should Marxist- 
Leninists take toward them? 

Although the principal attention of U.S. Marxist-Leninists must be 
devoted, at this time, to the complex tasks associated with the re- 
establishment of a genuine revolutionary party of the working class, this 
activity does not take place within a vacuum. The world of politics and 
the class struggle is continually thrusting before us new tasks and 
responsibilities, of both a theoretical and practical nature. Much of our 
party building efforts become framed and defined in relationship to such 
developments. Consequently, it is necessary to advance our views, 
struggle for unity on line and orientation, and help clarify these pressing 
questions before our movement. This is the pre-condition in any 
meaningful way in the broader political process. 

Clearly the recent events surrounding Afghanistan throw up before us 
the questions of war and peace, the course of the struggle against U.S. 
imperialism, and the role of the USSR in world politics. Our efforts to 
analyze, respond and practically intervene in a timely, clear-cut and 
decisive fashion will contribute to forging a general line for the U.S. 
communist movement, so necessary for the successful re-establishment 
of a Marxist-Leninist party. 

The methodology employed in this paper will be to locate the events in 
Afghanistan first in their overall world context, examining in particular 
the role and stand of the U.S. and the Soviet Union, and then to offer a 
concrete analysis of the course and development of the revolution in 
Afghanistan. The question will be taken up then, in the following three 

1 . The role and policy of the U.S., in particular the significance of the 
enunciation of the Carter Doctrine, in light of the general crisis of the 
imperialist system. 

2. The role and policy of the Soviet Union, in particular the 
significance of its military intervention in Afghanistan, in light of the 
general line guiding the work of the Communist Party of the Soviet 
Union (CPSU). 

3. The revolutionary struggle in Afghanistan, in particular the course 
of events from April 1978 to February 1980. 

In addition, we will contrast our own views to the views of some forces 

on the U.S. left who speak in the name of Marxism-Leninism, in 
particular those of the "left" opportunists, as well as, certain forces 
within the anti-revisionist, anti-"left" opportunist party building move- 


Perhaps the underlying significance of the Soviet intervention in 
Afghanistan is to be found primarily in U.S. imperialism's reaction to it. 

At first glance, the outburst of hysteria in Washington, capped by 
President Carter's grim-faced State of the Union message announcing 
the Carter Doctrine, seems incongruous. Afghanistan is halfway around 
the world from the U.S., and shares a lengthy border with the Soviet 
Union. In terms of superpower politics alone, Soviet intervention in 
Afghanistan would appear to be no more a threat to relations between the 
U.S. and the USSR than the U.S. intervention was in the Dominican 
Republic back in 1965 in order to prevent the triumph of what was seen 
as another "Cuban-type" revolution. Surely, the U.S. ruling circles did 
not really expect that Moscow would sit idly by and permit what would 
inevitably have been an anti-Soviet regime come to power in Kabul, 
while the U.S. and China are in the process of developing a political/ 
military alliance against the USSR and the Iranian situation is extremely 
unstable and volatile. This would mean forces hostile to the USSR 
across its entire southern border! 

In addition, the hysteria depicting Afghanistan as the Soviet Union's 
stepping stone to pounce upon the oil fields of the Persian Gulf area is 
more wild speculation than informed political realism. First of all, it is 
wishful thinking to project the very real oil supply crisis facing imperialist 
countries onto the USSR. All indications are that the Soviet Union is in 
possession of vast oil and fuel reserves still untapped and undeveloped. 
Equally important, no one, least of all the leaders of the Soviet Union, 
are foolish enough to doubt for a moment that any substantial Soviet 
move into Iran, Saudi Arabia or any other major oil producing nation of 
the Middle East would provoke a quick U.S. military response. 

In the jingoistic atmosphere now engulfing Washington, there were 
few who dared voice the obvious. Republican presidential contender, 
Congressman John Anderson of Illinois, however, was one. Anderson 
called Carter's outburst "a deliberate political hype . . . . Carter," he 
said, "has cynically taken advantage of what he knows is that attitude of 
fear in the minds of many people." Pravda could never have expressed it 
any clearer! 

Historical parallels are never exact, but increasingly it seems clear 
that the Afghanistan coup has been chosen as Carter's "Gulf of 
Tonkin." To refresh our memories could prove a timely political 
exercise. In August 1964, Lyndon Johnson reported that North Viet- 


namese gunboats had fired on a U.S. ship in the Gulf of Tonkin. 
Immediately thereafter, Congress voted to grant the President emergen- 
cy war powers enabling Johnson to qualitatively increase U.S. involve- 
ment in Vietnam without further congressional approval. In the ac- 
companying hysteria, there was virtually no congressional opposition 
and "the U.S. public was" successfully duped. Years later, it was fairly 
conclusively demonstrated that the whole incident was a hoax. Has the 
Carter administration created its own foreign affairs crisis as a pretext for 
a major alteration in policy? 

One commentator whose anti-Soviet credentials are impeccable, 
former U.S. Ambassador to Moscow George F. Kennan, was visibly 
dismayed by the Carter reaction. "In the official American interpreta- 
tion of what occurred in Afghanistan," noted Kennan (N.Y. Times, 
February 1, 1980), no serious account appears to have been taken of 
such specific factors as geographic proximity, ethnic affinity of peoples 
on both sides of the border and political instability in what is, after all, a 
border country of the Soviet Union. Specific factors of this nature, 
all suggesting defensive rather than offensive impulses may not have been 
all there was to Soviet motivation, nor would they have sufficed to justify 
the action; but they were relevant to it and should have been given their 
due in any realistic appraisal of it." 

Kennan's sobering conclusion contains a warning: "Never since 
World War II has there been so far-reaching a militarization of thought 
and discourse in the capital." 


What's so significant about Carter's foreign policy shift anyhow? 
Certainly we all recognize the fact that U.S. imperialism is prepared to 
ultimately defend its fundamental interests with force, especially its vital 
need for long range oil supplies. Unfortunately, those who argue thus are 
merely contenting themselves with platitudes and left phrase-mongering 
in a period which demands concrete and detailed political analysis. For 
well over a decade, U.S. imperialism was increasingly reluctant to pose 
itself as the policeman and bully for the world capitalist system. Its 
political and military capacities were no longer viewed as invincible, as it 
was beset on all sides by revolutionary struggles of oppressed peoples 
and nations in its desperate war of survival. In short, U.S. imperialism 
had no choice but to begin to accomodate its policies to the altering 
balance of political forces in the world. But the on-going debate within 
imperialist ruling circles has centered around the question, is there too 
much accomodation, should force be reasserted before it is too late? 

We are in fact witnessing a significant shift in U.S. imperialism's 
foreign policy, ushering in a mounting warlike political climate both 
internationally and domestically. It behooves us as Marxist-Leninists to 
carefully trace the development of this shift as it has unfolded over the 
past few years. If we recall, the Nixon administration attempted to frame 

a new policy solution to the dilemma inherited from the Kennedy/ 
Johnson policy of large scale and direct U.S. military involvement in 
Indochina. The Nixon Doctrine, coined as "Vietnamization," amounted 
to having Asians fight Asians, Africans fight Africans, Latins fight 
Latins — letting the imperialists reap the benefits as peoples of Asia, 
Africa and Latin America chalk up the battlefield casualties. This 
despicable policy was calculated to take full advantage of the long 
standing traditions of national chauvinism and racism in imperialist 
countries. Unfortunately, for the imperialists, the policy of "Viet- 
namization" proved a bit too simplistic, and a bit too late to forestall the 
deepening crisis. The dramatic collapse of the Thieu army in 1975 
marked the turning point and undoubtedly prompted the clamoring for a 
new "hard line policy" within the chambers of the Pentagon and the 
State Department. 

But such policies are not scrapped overnight, especially when 
imperialist options are narrowing year by year. In the Middle East, of 
course, the Nixon Doctrine translated itself into "Let Muslims fight 
Muslims." In the Persian Gulf area, the Shah of Iran was tapped to play 
the role of Nguyen van Thieu. From 1971 on, the Shah's repressive 
government became the strategic linchpin designed to look out for U.S. 
interests in the Middle East. All things considered, the Shah did 
reasonably well. He continued to supply oil to Israel when all other 
sources had dried up. He sent Iranian troops to suppress the internal 
rebellion in Oman when that reactionary sultanate was on the verge of 
being overthrown. He was a moderating force in OPEC where he did 
his best to keep oil prices at an acceptable level. In order to con- 
solidate this role, there was a powerful build-up of Iran's military 
arsenal during the 1 970's. It began to tower over its neighbors and stood 
as a grave warning to all those who would plot against the best interests of 
imperialism in the region. Indeed, a mighty friend was the Shah of Iran. 
Of course, the fatal flaw of the Nixon Doctrine was that the people of 
Iran did not consider the Shah their friend, as they were to display a few 
years later. 

The U.S. political and military debacle in Indochina was followed 
close on the heels by the liberation of Mozambique and the civil war in 
Angola. The imperialists experienced the greatest moment of frustra- 
tion in Angola when the Soviet Union and Cuba helped the MPLA to 
secure its revolutionary victory while the U.S. could do little more than 
gnash its teeth at its own impotence. 

In this part of the world, the battlelines were drawn too sharply, too 
clearly; the U.S. imperialists had a difficult time marshalling black Afri- 
cans to fight black Africans. The pro-U.S. "liberation organizations" 
could not be cloaked with any credibility; they stood nakedly as mercena- 
ries with links to the CIA and South Africa. At home, the U.S. policy 

makers found an equally untenable political situation. Any attempt to dis- 
patch black GI's to Africa to fight shoulder to shoulder with South African 
racists would border upon political insanity — it would raise much more 
than eyebrows in the black communities. Because the memory of the 
Indochina war was still too vivid in the minds of the American people, 
another "colonial war" in Africa would be hard to sell. Their hands tied 
politically, the imperialists had to sit this one out. For the U.S. 
imperialists the realization was sobering — in Africa they had the 
millstones of South Africa and Rhodesia around their neck; in the Middle 
East, the millstone of Israel. With such a heavy load it was extremely 
difficult to either "walk softly" or "carry a big stick!" 


Despite this predicament, the bitter taste of the Angolan revo- 
lution left the imperialists epithet "never again" on their lips. Since 
1976, the U.S. government has been more consciously seeking a basis 
for sufficiently changing the climate of the world and domestic 
public opinion so as to remove the spectre of Vietnam and once again 
provide U.S. imperialism the flexibility with which to confront as 
well as concede. This throws a new light on interpreting many of the 
events and developments of the last few years: Carter's unending crusade 
for "human rights" in the Soviet Union, the carefully orchestrated 
propaganda campaign depicting massive increases in Soviet military 
strength, the speed-up in U.S. /China normalization, etc. Each of these 
contributed something to the gradual change in the political climate, but 
none were able to provide the U.S. government with the free hand it 

Several events in 1979 made the dilemma facing imperialism's 
strategists even more urgent: the revolutionary upheaval in Iran; the 
Vietnamese intervention in Kampuchea followed by China's poor 
military showing in its attempt to "punish" Hanoi; the Sandinista 
revolution in Nicaragua; and the increasing instability of the capitalist 
economy highlighted by the growing inflation and the weakening of the 
U.S. dollar. One need not be a capitalist to appreciate somewhat their 
growing predicament and imagine the rumblings in the top circles of the 
imperialist system . . . "We have to take firm steps to stabilize this 
deteriorating situation." In 1979, a campaign for the political and ideo- 
logical re-conditioning of the masses was more actively promoted. The 
overthrow of the Shah was followed by another manufactured gasoline 
shortage with the accompanying sky-rocketing prices for motor fuel and 
heating oil. But while this produced howls of protest from the public, the 
effort partially backfired to a certain extent as the oil companies were 
caught once again extracting record breaking profits. Although the 
American people were encouraged, with some success, to associate 
the Iranian revolution with higher gas and oil prices, this was not 

sufficient to engender any widespread public sympathy for the deposed 
Shah. His crimes were far too numerous to hide or gloss over. Any talk of 
direct U.S. intervention would still not have met with substantial public 

The Vietnamese intervention in Kampuchea was again followed by an 
all-out anti-communist propaganda blitz and slander campaign against 
Vietnam. Horror stories about imminent starvation in Kampuchea 
replete with Rosalyn Carter's "mercy mission," the plight of the boat 
people, the ruthless aggressiveness of Hanoi with the hovering presence 
of Moscow in the background, were all conjured up to paint the false 
image of a Vietnamese communist spectre threatening to gobble up the 
"democracies" of Thailand, Indonesia, the Philippines, and even wild 
enough to invade China! A considerable amount of emotion was 
expended in this process, but the political results still left a lot to be 
desired from the point of view of the imperialists. 

For one thing, it was hard to generate much sympathy for the Pol Pot 
regime whose unsavory record has been so well documented that even 
his most ardent supporters must dwell on other matters in defending the 
overthrown regime. Besides, the conflict in Kampuchea was generally 
viewed as a "squabble among communists." Kampuchea had already 
been given up as lost to imperialist control and penetration; Americans 
could not be convinced that Kampuchea was vital to the U.S. national 
security — it's a long way from the oil wells of the Middle East. The 
majority of the Vietnamese boat people turned out to be either those who 
weren't able to catch the last U.S. helicopter out of Saigon back in 1 975 
or petty capitalists and black marketeers — not exactly the self-sacrifi- 
cing, "freedom loving" types. Most important, however, was the fact 
that the memory of the war fought in Indochina was too vivid in the 
consciousness of the U.S. masses. 

Then, lo and behold, U.S. imperialism'a self-proclaimed "backyard" 
exploded with revolution. The Sandinista victory in Nicaragua swept 
away Somoza through armed struggle and popular uprising. Somoza was 
Latin America's version of the Shah of Iran, and no one would touch him 
with a ten-foot pole much less rise to his defense. The U.S. could not 
even manuever the OAS to intervene. The Sandinista Front, with 
Marxist-Leninists at its center, could not easily be duped or co-opted. 
The Nicaraguan situation had far too many similarities to the Cuban 
situation in the early 60's for the comfort of the U.S. imperialists, yet 
they lacked a clear enough justification for intervention. In search of a 
pretext, the U.S. announced the "belated discovery" of a Soviet combat 
brigade in Cuba. Not surprisingly, the Ronald Reagan types were on 
their feet calling for another U.S. invasion of Cuba . . . and Nicaragua 
while we're at it. (Also, not surprisingly, the ultra-leftists came out to 
serve as the cheering gallery.) The Cubans, however, calmly informed 


the world that the Soviet brigade had been there since the missile crisis 
of 1962 and they were staying put. The Soviet chimed in "that's right," 
and the imperialist pretext sank like a lead balloon as planeloads of 
Cuban doctors, teachers and engineers began to arrive in Managua. 

Then came the incident of the Shah's cancer and the seizure of the U.S. 
hostages in Tehran. One cannot say for sure what goes on in the minds of 
those who decide such things, but the explanation that permitting the 
Shah to come to the U.S. for medical treatment was a "miscalculation" 
is becoming increasingly dubious. The special pleading done on behalf of 
the Shah by his powerful friends at the Chase Manhattan Bank — David 
Rockefeller and Henry Kissinger — makes it clear that political in- 
nocence and humanitarianism can hardly have been the principal factor 
in this decision. Rockefeller, Kissinger and Carter were dispatching a 
signal to every fascist dictator propped up by the U.S. in the world that 
they would not be forgotten in their "hour of need." 

Placing aside the political and tactical wisdom of the Iranian students' 
seizure of the American hostages, the U.S. imperialists have grabbed the 
opportunity to fan the flames of American jingoism and national 
chauvinism. From abusive attacks on Iranian students in the U.S. to the 
proliferation of "Nuke the Ayatollah" T-shirts and buttons, an ugly and 
warlike atmosphere of jingoism, reminiscent of the early 1950's, has 
begun to gain substantial ground among the American people. For the 
first time there was installed a significant enough rightward shift in the 
political climate of the country to justify a formal turn toward the more 
hard line military foreign policy which the imperialists have been 
mandating for some time. The mounting talk of war and confrontation 
coincides with the deepening problems of inflation, "planned" recession 
and reduced social services. 

In summary, in 1979, U.S. imperialism paved the way for a major 
policy reversal — "putting Vietnam behind us" — that would enable it to 
deal more effectively with the rising challenge to its system inter- 
nationally and to defuse and divert the mounting popular discontent at 
home toward the "glories" of war and the "necessity" of economic 
privation for the sake of "God, country and the American way of life." 

However, to sustain such a political climate requires a perceived 
threat and a sense of ideological purpose. To set the U.S. on an indefinite 
war footing merely to "defend America" from the Ayatollah Khomeini 
promises only momentary success, especially once the hostages are 
actually released. The imperialists needed to drag the old "Soviet 
menace" back onto the center stage and throw a red spot light on it once 
again. The Soviets however, have been extremely reluctant and careful 
not to assume such a role. They have successfully managed to keep a 
sufficiently low profile in all the hot spots where the U.S. has 
experienced reversals— Iran, Nicaragua, Angola, etc. Carter was in 
search of sufficient political leverage to usher in the revival of the "cold 

war" and the scrapping of SALT II. However, this is easier wished for 
than accomplished. The 1980's are quite different than the 1950's— a 
cold war with the USSR flies in the face of common sense and the 
economic, political and military realities of international politics. 


And so we had a new imperialist policy in search of an "incident" . . . 
and then came Afghanistan! In Washington, the decision was made to go 
all out. Perhaps domestic political considerations played a role in it. 
Carter's political standing was so dismal that he had become fair game 
for political rivals in his own country — a somewhat unusual situation for 
an incumbent. Jingoistic appeals to patriotism always makes for some 
effective campaign ammunition in the short-run. But to note this is not to 
reduce the Afghanistan incident to a mere partisan political ploy. The 
point is that if Carter did not exploit this opportunity, his Republican 
rivals would have, so he could not afford to wait for a better pretext to 
come along. 

On its own merits, using Afghanistan as the excuse for a drastic change 
in U.S. policy had certain drawbacks. The country is not strategic to 
U. S. interests in its own right. Afghanistan is not an oil-producing nation 
nor is it the source of any other vital resource or product upon which the 
imperialist economy depends. Halfway around the world from the U.S., 
it is a little hard to imagine Soviet troops poised in Kabul ready for an 
assault on Washington, D.C. Politically, the U.S. can also not extend 
any official backing for the rebel forces without, at the same time, 
undercutting the argument about Soviet "intervention" in the sovereign 
affairs of Afghanistan. 

However, Afghanistan also presented certain advantages for the 
purposes the U.S. imperialists had in mind. To begin with, Americans 
are grossly ignorant about Afghanistan's history and society, a fact the 
ruling circles have taken full advantage of. For example, its proximity to 
Iran has served to artificially transfer to Kabul much of the popular 
concern rivited on Tehran, obscuring in an atmosphere of generalized 
political anxiety the distinctions between the two societies. Similarly, 
because Afghanistan is in the Middle East, it translates in the minds of 
many Americans as "oil" and with it the fear that if the "Russians take 
over," it will further shrink the supply and raise gas prices. More 
importantly, die Soviet military intervention was direct and massive 
enough that it could not be hidden. The imperialists were quick to point 
out that this was the first time Soviet troops have moved outside of the 
circumscribed Soviet camp since World War II. All the allegations 
reserved for the U.S. could now be hurled back at the Soviets — 
aggressors, colonizers, even ill-founded attempts to accuse the Soviets of 
My Lai-type burnings of Afghan villages, raping women, killing children, 
etc. In addition, the current president, Babrak Karmal, had spent the 


previous period in Eastern Europe and apparently was brought back and 
installed by the Soviets. On the surface he appears to be a complete 
creation of the USSR, an unknown imposed upon the people of 
Afghanistan. In fact, Karmal is quite prominent inside Afghanistan. A 
founder of the People's Democratic Party (communist party), and for 
years the left's spokesperson in parliament, he has probably been, after 
Taraki, the most influential nationalist and communist leader in Af- 
ghanistan over the past 20 years. Lastly, the counter-revolutionary 
movement is based in backward rural areas utilizing traditional ties of 
religion, superstition and reactionary nationalism. Consequently, it has a 
superficial appearance of enjoying a "popular base." 

But possibly, what tilted the balance for the imperialist chieftains was 
that they didn't know if a better chance would come along. One can well 
imagine the careful weighing of pros and cons in the inner recesses of the 
National Security Council before the final decision — "Let's go with 
Afghanistan" — was made. The President's State of the Union message 
became the forum for announcing to the world this important shift in U.S. 
foreign policy — the Carter Doctrine. 


What then is the significance of the "Carter Doctrine"? The following 
would appear to be the most important features: 

• It is the inevitable response to the "loss" of Iran as U.S. 
imperialism's most reliable and best equipped gendarme in the Middle 
East. The imperialists are hopeful that Egypt can eventually come to fill 
that role, but it will take some time. Sadat's credentials are tarnished after 
he openly broke the ranks of Arab unity on the central question of Israel 
and Palestine. Egypt's location is not as favorable as Iran for the 
purposes of imperialist geopolitics; and domestically, Egyptian society 
is a powderkeg. Israel, of course, is completely out of the question. The 
imperialists have all they can do to keep in check the wild ambitions of 
the Zionists to incorporate into Israel's borders any place even remotely 
mentioned in the Old Testament! The threat to Middle East oil — a threat 
which, as Iran clearly demonstrates, comes primarily from the revolu- 
tionary struggles of the masses and not from the Soviet Union — is one for 
which the U.S. must now assume direct and open military responsibility. 
The Carter Doctrine announces this to the world and prepares the people 
of the U.S. for the possibility of military intervention, anywhere in the 
Middle East where revolution threatens a pro-imperialist regime. As a 
leading analyst for the New York Times puts it (January 25 , 1 980): "The 
biggest question [concerning the Carter Doctrine] concerns the cir- 
cumstances besides a Soviet invasion of Iran or other oil-producing 
nations, that might lead Mr. Carter to order military forces into the 
Persian gulf." (Emphasis added — I.S) 


• The way has now been paved for a U.S. military move in Iran. 
Such a move could take place fairly soon, but the greater likelihood is 
that Carter is readying world public opinion for intervention in the event 
that the present regime, whose ruling class alignments are extremely 
unstable, is brought down and there is a move to the left in Iran. This would 
be described as "internal subversion" that would benefit Moscow and 
jeopardize world peace, and in light of the Carter Doctrine, could be 
deemed a strategic threat to U.S. security. 

• Political and military alliances which were only recendy con- 
sidered taboo can now be pursued, in particular in the Middle East. Arms 
sales have been resumed to Pakistan and billions of dollars in military aid 
promised. The ban on aid to Turkey has been lifted. U.S. military 
equipment and technology can now be sold to China, which has made 
abundantly clear its commitment to maintain the status quo in the Middle 
East in order to check Soviet designs. Clearly in a "national crisis," the 
U.S. can't be expected to be as fussy about its allies, and support to 
reactionary and racist regimes can be less covert than in the past. 
(Ronald Reagan has already called for imposing a blockade on Cuba in 
response to Afghanistan, a classic example of the ideological bias at the 
heart of imperialist logic which Reagan can always be counted on to 
expose.) However, in this day and age, Washington realizes it must cloak 
the Carter Doctrine in other language than openly declaring a "war on 

• The U.S. is trying to lay the foundation for an anti-communist 
ideological front in the Middle East based upon Islam. It hopes to 
capture the nationalist sentiment of the masses and direct it against the 
"atheistic" Soviet Union and away from U.S. imperialism. The 
abundance of reactionary class forces in the Middle East promises 
the imperialists considerable success in this scheme. However, as recent 
events have shown, the one thing which Muslim reactionaries hate as 
much as communism is Zionism. This is quite a pickle for the Carter 
Doctrine to attempt to get out of. 

• Carter has restated U.S. imperialism's view of peaceful co- 
existence and detente. "It's just not fair!" bemoan the imperialists. The 
USSR has been breaking the "rules" and cheating and the U.S. refuses 
to continue playing the game if this doesn't stop immediately. To 
punctuate the point, the U.S. has tabled the ratification of SALT II 
indefinitely. What becomes crystal clear is that, from the imperialist 
point of view, peaceful co-existence/detente is an agreement to concede 
to socialism a certain sphere of influence for some indefinite period of 
time and allow a few "grey areas," provided the "socialists" co-operate 
in restraining revolution outside that sphere. The Soviets had previously 
indicated that they had abandoned Lenin's wild notion that the laws of 
the class struggle would bring the proletariat to power world wide, that 




the USSR would help this process wherever and however it could, and 
that peaceful co-existence was a necessary tactical arrangement in 
pursuing this strategy. The U.S. is dramatically calling for an inter- 

the Soviet court, a tense moment for the weak knees of modern 

• Lastly, the domestic political purposes of the Carter Doctrine are 
already clear. Having established a crisis atmosphere, restraints on the 
CIA and FBI are being lifted, the first step towards re-instatementof the 
draft has taken place, and military "defense" expenditures have jumped 
substantially without need for a detailed explanation, much less any 
Congressional or popular opposition and controversy. The green light has 
been given for cutbacks on people's welfare and standard of living, 
justified in the name of the common "sacrifice" required to meet the 
Soviet threat. Vietnam is "being put behind us" in an outburst of 
jingoism, racism and national chauvinism. 

Underscoring this point was the Wall Street Journal (January 25, 
1980). Hailing Carter for having "turned a corner on foreign policy" 
with his interdiction of the Persian Gulf area, the Journal congratulated 
the President particularly for picking "up a political hot potato in 
advocating resumption of draft registration. Opposition to the draft was 
at the very heart of the post- Vietnam syndrome, yet a serious society 
clearly needs to face the possibility that circumstances may arise that 
necessitate a conscript army. Mr. Carter deserves forthright support on 
this proposal, both as an eminently practical step, and as a symbol of 
national recovery from the trauma of Vietnam." 

In summation, while the present crisis has, to a great extent, been 
manufactured by U.S. imperialism, the sense of panic which has been 
enveloping the U.S. ruling class ever since the end of the Vietnam war is 
certainly real enough, as are the contradictions ripening within the 
imperialist system. The course already charted by the revolutionary 
peoples of Asia, Africa and Latin America in resolving these contra- 
dictions has become unmistakably clear over the past couple of decades. 
Revolution is, indeed, the main trend in the world today. 


What has not always been so clear is the role which the Soviet Union 
intends to play as the world revolution proceeds. Let us turn, therefore, to 
examine the role and policies of the Soviet Union in the world today, 
particularly the developing Soviet view of what foreign policy will serve 
its interests best. In many ways, the current raging international con- 
troversy over Afghanistan is principally a reflection of how various forces 
view the real or perceived dangers (or benefits) posed by the Soviet Union 
in world politics. 

In order to assess the actions of the US SR, one needs first to determine 
what kind of society it is and what general policy or line guides its 
development. This may appear to be a strange starting point. One would 
think that the nature of the USSR would be fairly evident by now, 
as well as understood as the international assessment of the character of 
the U.S. But this is not the case, and ironically, most of the confusion 
exists within the ranks of the international communist movement in the 
wake of the split over modern revisionism in the 60's. The contradictory 
policies and practices of the USSR over the years have fueled this 
confusion. We start then with the following opinion: a socialist system 
was established in the Soviet Union after the victory of the Bolshevik 
revolution. The development of socialism has been characterized by 
massive transformations in the forces of production and the class 
relations. The basic mode of production ushered in by the Bolshevik 
revolution remains unchanged, and still reflects, though highly im- 
perfectly, the basic class interest of the Soviet proletariat. In short, despite 
serious shortcomings and deformations in the theory and practice of 
Soviet socialism, a capitalist counter-revolution has not been affected in 
the USSR. The empirically unsound and theoretically muddled "capita- 
list restoration thesis" is a "short cut" analysis which actually detours us 
from the more difficult task of analyzing the complex contradictions of 
Soviet socialism guided by a revisionist line. 

The modern revisionist line centered in the CPSU is the ultimate 
source of the vacillation, opportunism and class collaboration which 
often characterizes the policies and practices pursued by the USSR. The 
cornerstone of the revisionist line can be seen in the controversy over the 
principal contradiction in the world today. 

The fundamental contradiction of our epoch is the antagonism 
between two social systems — capitalism and socialism. The one is dying 
and the other is rising. The whole period, therefore, will inevitably be 
characterized by enormous social, political and economic turmoil and 
this will be expressed in a particularly high pitch of class struggle. This 
fundamental contraction manifests itself in three main forms: 

• The contradiction between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat; 

• The contradiction between oppressor (imperialist) nations and 
oppressed (exploited and subjugated) nations and peoples; 

• The contradiction between imperialist countries and socialist 

In addition, the contradictions among the imperialist countries them- 
selves continue to operate as a powerful force built into the very 
competitive nature of the capitalist mode of production. 

In any given period, the fundamental contradiction of our epoch will 
manifest itself through the primacy of one of these contradictions. When 
the Communist Party of China was still guided by a Marxist-Leninist 


general line, it argued correctly that the principal contradiction of the 
period is between imperialism led by U.S. capitalism on the one hand 
and the oppressed peoples and nations of the world on the other. This was 
an accurate summation of the actual state of the class struggle in the 
world, identifying that contradiction which was, and still is, most actively 
moving history forward. To assert this view was not to deny that the other 
contradictions existed or could, under other circumstances, emerge as 
the principal one. (Today, of course, the CPC has formally altered its 
position on that question, holding that the USSR is capitalist and that the 
principal contradiction in the world is the "inter-imperialist" con- 
tradiction between the U.S . and the USSR. Between the two, it considers 
the USSR as the rising, more aggressive imperialism, and calls for the 
formation of a tactical united front with U.S. imperialism while 
preparing itself frantically for World War III.) 

On the other hand, the Communist Party of the Soviet Union holds 
that the contradiction between capitalist countries (headed by the U.S.) 
and socialist countries (headed by the USSR) is the principal contra- 
diction in the world. The formulation "headed by the U.S. . . . headed 
by the USSR" is of crucial importance because, rhetoric aside, the line 
reduces itself to U.S./Soviet contention. This view represents a na- 
tionalist deviation from Marxism-Leninism which objectively sub- 
ordinates the actual revolutionary struggles in the world to the narrower 
state interests of the Soviet Union. This Soviet view of the principal 
contradiction in the world led to the following estimate in 1956, and it 
still remains up until today the basic underpinning of the general line of 
the USSR: Since the imperialist camp holds a military edge over the 
socialist camp, it is in the interests of the socialist countries (therefore the 
world proletariat) to buy time from the imperialists through a policy of 
peaceful co-existence. This policy means that the imperialists should not 
be "provoked" in such a way as to embroil the Soviet Union in a direct 
military confrontation with the U.S. Instead, the CPSU should engage 
the imperialists actively in the process of peaceful co-existence, ex- 
ploiting contradictions with the monopoly capitalist ruling class based on 
national rivalries as well as varying financial interests. To effect this 
general line, the CPSU developed an international foreign policy 
composed of the following elements: 

• Revolutionary wars of national liberation should be "contained" 
to make sure that they do not embroil the USSR in a direct confrontation 
with U.S. armed might. Revolutionary forces must understand therefore 
that Soviet support will be limited and will depend first and foremost on 
the risk entailed. 

• The doctrine of "peaceful transition" to socialism should be 
enunciated as the preferred policy of the communist parties, especially 
those of the advanced capitalist countries, thus reassuring the U.S. and 


its allies that they would not be directly attacked in their own bailiwicks. 
This is particularly important in France, Italy and Japan where the 
existence of mass Communist parties pose serious concerns for the 
imperialists. (It should also be noted that none of these parties had to 
have their arms twisted to adopt this new line. In fact, the Italian CP had 
been urging such a line on the international movement even before 
Khrushchev announced it.) The line of the CPSU also reflects its 
estimate that proletarian revolution in the advanced capitalist countries 
is not on the foreseeable historical agenda and that, therefore, the 
theoretical concession (i.e., advocating peaceful transition) constitutes a 
positive concession of no immediate consequence anyhow. Such a 
pragmatic approach to "shades of difference" is characteristic of 

• The USSR will busy itself engaging in peaceful competition 
with the west, promoting trade, cultural exchanges, cooperation in 
various scientific fields, etc., between the socialist countries and the 
imperialist countries in order to develop an atmosphere of peace that 
will isolate the hard-liners in the capitalist camp. Trade is seen as 
especially important since this gives certain sectors of the imperialists 
an economic stake in normal relations. 

• The military forces of the socialist countries should be built up in 
order to close the arms gap. Nuclear disarmament, if it could be effected 
(a doubtful proposition) will be in the best interests of the Soviet Union 
since the military edge of the imperialists is primarily technological — 
especially in the nuclear arsenal. 


The problem with this line of the CPSU is that in those situations 
where the momentary interests of the Soviet state come into con- 
tradiction with the interests of the revolutionary struggles of oppressed 
peoples and nations as they are actually appearing in the world, it serves 
to theoretically justify the subordination of the latter to the former. 
Further, it promotes an ideological degeneration in the world com- 
munist movement and elevates what at best could be seen as a dubious 
tactical concession to imperialism (revolution is not on the immediate 
agenda of the advanced capitalist countries) to a strategic principle. 
Finally, it sees the security of the USSR as resting more on its 
accomodation with imperialism than on the further triumph of the world 

The ideological underpinning of this line is obviously not compatible 
with Marxism-Leninism. Lenin's analysis of imperialism is abandoned 
and instead the view is promoted that "a world without war" is possible 
even without the defeat of imperialism. The class struggle as the motor 
force of history is subordinated to the struggle for economic reforms; 


instead, the course of history will be determined by the strength and 
fortunes of the Soviet Union. No longer are the communists in the world 
the "conscious element" of every struggle, that advanced detachment of 
the working class charged with the task of leading the proletariat to its 
historical revolutionary destiny. Instead of everything depending on the 
self-conscious action of the working class and oppressed peoples, the 
Soviet line reduces humanity's progress towards socialism to the 
formulation that "everything depends on peace." 

Another aspect of the Soviet leadership's narrow view of its national 
security and the interests of the world revolution is their emphasis on 
assuring the pro-Soviet character of revolutionary forces whom they 
support— in some cases backing a bankrupt group whom they know to be 
relatively weak and not of vanguard calibre, but which is still more 
reliable in terms of following Soviet leadership. Such opportunism is 
nothing but a thinly veiled attempt to perpetuate the privileged position 
enjoyed by the CPSU in a flunkyist network of dependent revisionist 
parties. Of course, there are also times when the Soviets have little 
choice but to cooperate with genuine Marxist-Leninist parties which 
can neither be categorized as revisionist nor flunkyist. However, Soviet 
support to revolutionary struggles remains generally mixed, incon- 
sistent, frequently vacillating, and laced with hegemonistic tendencies. 
Nevertheless, despite the vacillation and class collaboration fostered 
by this revisionist line, the contradiction between socialism and capital- 
ism is real. And the Marxist precepts on the nature of antagonistic class 
struggle simply can not be wished away by obscurantist theoretical 
formulations. Reality keeps constantly imposing itself upon the CPSU 
and the Soviet Union, modifying the most extreme features of its 
revisionist tendency towards collaboration with imperialism and keeping 
its opportunism largely within the realm of ideology and only in- 
consistently in the realm of politics. 

In this sense, detente as an all-encompassing system of world-wide 
cooperation between the Soviet Union and the U.S. never really worked. 
It could not because the fundamental contradiction between socialism 
and capitalism keeps getting in the way. Despite lingering illusions, the 
Soviet leadership can never feel secure in its arrangements with the U. S., 
especially since imperialism remains a system that must expand or die. 
Objectively, therefore, the defense of socialism in the actual practice of 
the class struggle is much more reliably secured by revolutionary 
victories in other countries than by relying on the "rationality" of the 
imperialists. Therefore, the Soviet leadership frequently does support 
revolutionary struggle as a way to weaken its major foe— always 
carefully weighing the possible consequences if it should go too far in 
confronting the U.S. This somewhat schizophrenic Soviet policy 
frequently leads to incorrect stands. This is evidenced in the Soviet 


recognition of the Lon Nol regime in Cambodia during the Indochina 
war, its betrayal of the Eritrean people's legitimate revolutionary 
struggle in the interests of securing its influence with what it sees as the 
more strategically important Ethiopian junta, and its willingness to 
support reactionary regimes in countries where the viable revolutionary 
movement leading the struggle is explicitly critical of modern revision- 
ism and the CPSU. 

Ideologically, the CPSU makes major negative concessions to the 
bourgeoisie — concessions which have a serious practical consequence 
internationally in that a number of communist parties adopt blatantly 
reformist general lines as the basis for the proletarian struggle in their 
own countries. In this sense, the CPSU must be held responsible for the 
political and ideological degeration of the revisionist parties firmly under 
its sway, since its own abandonment of Marxism-Leninism has legiti- 
mized the surrender of proletarian revolution in this international trend. 
In turn, this ideological betrayal sows illusions among the masses on the 
nature of imperialism and the strategy needed for defeating it. Never- 
theless, we witness the contradictory phenomena that in the actual 
political arena of the international class struggle, the USSR has, on a 
number of occasions, pulled back from the full application of its 
revisionist theory in practice? In many of the crucial confrontations with 
imperialism (i.e., Vietnam, Angola, Zimbabwe, Palestine, etc.), the 
Soviet Union winds up on the correct side of the barricades. No 
concrete analysis of the role of the USSR in international politics can 
ignore this fact or, on the other hand, praise it out of the context of the 
accompanying revisionist vacillations. 

In brief, the CPSU does not operate in the world as a conscious 
revolutionary force. It constitutes the international headquarters for 
modern revisionism. It devises its international policies principally on 
the basis of that which best serves the national interests of the Soviet 
state, rationalizing this politically with the view that the principal 
contradiction in the world is between the imperialist countries headed by 
the U.S. and the socialist countries headed by the Soviet Union. 
However, being a socialist country, the interests of the Soviet state 
frequently intersect with the objective interests of the world proletariat. 
Therefore, the Soviet Union — while hardly the "reliable" ally of 
oppressed peoples as it proclaims itself to be — is ironically often the 
"natural" ally it claims to be. 

This rather lengthy "prologue" is indispensable for any all-sided view 
of the Soviet intervention in Afghanistan. For whether spelled out or not, 
all views of the events in Afghanistan stem from either similar or 
contending assumptions about the major contending forces in the world 
and the Soviet Union's role within this struggle. 

For instance, the indignation of the imperialists obviously does not 
emanate from some newfound enthusiasm for the "human rights" of the 


Afghan masses. Clearly, the imperialists are disturbed by the results of 
this event and by its implications for the future. For the U.S., the USSR 
still represents the main symbol in theory and practice of the weakening 
and destruction of the capitalist system. This imperialist fear has a real 
material basis. International capital cannot flow freely into the vast 
Soviet Union and expand its profits at the expense of the Soviet 
proletariat. This holds true also for those socialist countries tied closely 
into the Soviet camp. The imperialists now have good reason to believe 
that this will soon hold true for Afghanistan. They are begrudgingly 
admitting already that it is only a matter of time before the Soviets will 
help to politically and economically consolidate Afghanistan's exit from 
the imperialist orbit. "Loss of more economic territory!" This is the only 
language the imperialists truly understand. To them, all the controversy 
over Soviet revisionism is just so much inter-communist squabbling. 
This should not surprise us. Being bourgeois, they have an ideological 
blind spot preventing their full appreciation of the importance of such a 

Likewise, denunciation of the Soviet move by the heads of a large 
number of Islamic states is also based on a certain clear political 
assumption: namely, the ever-present spectre of social revolution in their 
own countries, and the fear that the Soviet Union would begin to step up 
its assistance to indigenous communists or rush in to consolidate a 
revolutionary regime should the communists come anywhere near 
taking power. Certainly the first fear is a real and ripening one. 
However, the fear of active Soviet assistance and encouragement is more 
a perceived threat than a real one. Neither the Soviet revisionists nor 
their revisionist counterparts in the Islamic world have yet distinguished 
themselves for vanguard leadership in advancing the proletarian class 


Reactions on the left also proceed from an elaborate set of as- 
sumptions. If consistency were a trait that had some political merit in 
its own right, we should congratulate both the "left" opportunists, who 
faithfully adhere to China's view of world events, and the pro-Moscow 
revisionists, for whom the fount of political wisdom will remain evermore 
enshrined behind the walls of the Kremlin. The views of both are so 
predictable that one hardly needs to examine the particular arguments 
from one incident to another, knowing full well that the argumentation 
will be devised to suit the pre-ordained conclusions. Still flunkyism can- 
not by itself explain this phenomenon. There are a set of opportunist 
political assumptions underlying each of these positions. 

The "left" opportunists, basing their position on the thesis that the 
Soviet Union is a capitalist, hold that the Soviet Union is the more 
dangerous and the more powerful superpower. They call for a united 


front bringing together all who can be united against the Soviet Union. 
That such a front will not only include U.S. imperialism but will, under 
present circumstances, inevitably be dominated by it, does not seem to 
dampen the enthusiasm of these "communist" advocates in the slightest. 

Therefore, any event which appears to strengthen the Soviet Union — 
directly or indirectly — is viewed with the greatest suspicion and, for the 
most part, condemned. Likewise, any move which seems to strengthen 
the resolve of the imperialists to stand up to the Soviet Union is seen as 
positive. Viewed from such a standpoint, the "enlightened" section of the 
U.S. bourgeoisie begins with Ronald Reagan and moves steadily to the 
right— at least in so far as foreign policy is concerned. 

The "left" opportunists have, with unfailing unanimity, denounced the 
Soviet action in Afghanistan as but the latest and most reprehensible 
example of a grand Moscow design for the conquest of the world. Since 
this is now precisely the leading line of the chieftains of monopoly 
capital, it has become increasingly difficult to distinguish between the 
political positions of the extreme "left" and the extreme right in the U.S. 
Of course, the "left" opposes the USSR for being capitalist, while the 
right fears the USSR because it's communist — an unstable united front 
indeed! A graphic example of this confluence was provided when The 
Call, the organ of the Communist Party (ML), and the New York Times, 
the organ of the "responsible" sector of finance capital, carried the very 
same article by the very same author proclaiming the events in 
Afghanistan as the starting point for World War III. While the Times 
noted the author's journalistic activities for the Christian Science 
Monitor, it conveniently omitted his reportage on behalf of The Call. 
The point, however, is not so much the duplicity of these credits as it is 
the ease with which these "strange bedfellows" were able to be at home 
in each other's company. It is interesting to take note in passing of the 
political schizophrenia infecting these "left" groups as they affect a 
militant stance in the class struggle at home while the logic of their 
international line forces them into support for higher military ap- 
propriations and "defense measures." Presumably, they favor a "guns 
and butter" policy, but despite their political contortions, they cannot 
escape the fact that they are marching underneath an anti-communist 

The pro-Moscow revisionists, on the other hand, proceed from the 
same assumption that the leaders of the CPSU do. For them, whatever 
policy the government of the USSR decides is in its own best interest is 
simultaneously one that is in the best interests of the world proletariat. 
Any contradictions which may arise between the CPSU and other 
communist parties are inevitably resolved in favor of the Soviet view. 
Toeing the Moscow line, therefore, the CPUSA finds itself un- 
conditionally defending the Soviet actions in Afghanistan while at the 


same time pleading for the ratification of SALT II and the further 
development of detente. Incapable of developing an independent ana- 
lysis and line, they anxiously wait for word from Moscow on how to 
extricate themselves from the obvious contradiction in their propaganda. 

Then there is a whole sector of the broader left for whom "process" is 
more important than results. These range from pacifists for whom the 
employment of force indelibly compromises the objectives, to social 
democrats whose greatest concern is that actions such as those of 
Vietnam in Kampuchea, Cuba in Angola and the Soviet Union in 
Afghanistan "give socialism a bad name." Such petty bourgeois 
prejudices are attempts to take the class struggle out of socialism, to 
transform the life and death character of the struggle for socialism into a 
neat and orderly "striving." 

Another prominent example of this petty-bourgeois point of view holds 
that "national sovereignty" is a principle so absolute that one socialist 
country should not send its forces into another even if the political 
situation is such that counter-revolution may triumph. (The more 
sophisticated expression of this same thesis generally tends to minimize 
the danger of a counter-revolutionary comeback or holds that resolving 
such a contradiction must be the sole responsibility of indigenous forces.) 
Such a position replaces politics with moralism. Marxist-Leninists must 
always inquire first and foremost — what are the class interests involved, 
how can the overall interests of the international proletariat be served? 
Marxism has always held that national sovereignty elevated to an 
absolute, universal principle is nothing but a narrow bourgeois prejudice. 
At different times and in different circumstances the class struggle might 
demand the rigorous defense of national sovereignty; at other times it 
might call for armies to cross borders and the dispatching of international 
volunteers; in some circumstances it might neccesitate a policy of no 
open involvement. In short, communists offer no preconditions or 
guarantees to the international bourgeoisie concerning the means in 
which they will advance the class struggle. 

The view we will advance here rejects many of these assumptions. To 
begin with, we reject the charge that the USSR is a capitalist country, 
much less a fascist country or the principal danger to the peoples of the 
world. On the other hand, the Soviet Union is far from the paragon of 
proletarian internationalism. The modern revisionist line centered in the 
CPSU fosters vacillation and class collaboration in the proletarian 
struggle. The narrow view of Soviet national interests is the principal 
factor in Soviet foreign policy, but to the extent that it coincides with their 
perceived national interests, the USSR is capable of assisting the 
advance of the world revolution. In principle we have no predetermined 
opposition stemming merely from the fact that Soviet troops crossed the 
border into Afghanistan. The central questions remain: Which class 
interests were strengthened by the Soviet move? Was the Afghan 


revolution strengthened or weakened in the process? With this in mind, 
let us examine the events in Afghanistan more closely. 


For centuries Afghanistan has seemed to be a country relatively 
impervious to the main revolutionary currents of our epoch. A land- 
locked state in central Asia, Afghanistan drew the interest of large 
powers primarily as a strategic gateway on the road to larger imperialist 
conquests. Its mountainous terrain made foreign invasions more diffi- 
cult, but it also impeded the unification of the country. This, in turn, 
tended to perpetuate a lengthy tradition of tribalism and the ideological 
backwardness associated with the feudal mode of production. 

In the 1 9th century, Afghanistan was a continuing arena of contention 
between Britain and Russia. Ultimately, the British prevailed and 
Afghanistan, while nominally independent, was little more than a British 
protectorate which stood as a barrier between the Czar and the historic 
ambitions of his predecessors for Russian access to the Indian Ocean. 

British dominance and the generally backward state of the Afghanis- 
tan economy kept the country relatively removed from the influence of 
the Russian Revolution after 1917. In the period between world wars, 
some minimal efforts towards economic modernization took place, but 
the changes were hardly qualitiative. Even in the period after World War 
II when British influence was on the decline, Afghanistan remained 
pretty much locked into its legacy of poverty, illiteracy and economic 
backwardness. As western influence waned, an unspoken truce between 
the Soviet Union and the U.S. prevailed in which neither sought to 
intervene "unduly" in the internal affairs of Afghanistan. Moscow made 
it clear that any attempt by the U.S. to bring Afghanistan more directly 
into its orbit would be met with a military response. At the same time, 
the Soviet leaders seemed satisfied to have Afghanistan stand, in its 
traditional role, as a "buffer" on its southern flank. From the narrow 
standpoint of military security, the status quo in Afghanistan was 
acceptable to Moscow. 

Modernization was clearly on the agenda in Afghanistan but the 
national bourgeoisie was relatively weak and its interests clearly collided 
with those of the large landholders and local chieftains who utilized the 
hold of religion on the masses to maintain them in a state of backward- 

After World War II, a comprador bourgeoisie tied to western 
imperialist interests began to develop and gain more strength. In this 
connection, it is noteworthy that one of the present leaders of the Afghan 
rebel forces, Syed Ishaq Gailani, head of the National Front for the 
Islamic Revolution in Afghanistan, was up until recently the proprietor 
of the Peuguot automobile dealership in Kabul. 


Today, Afghanistan is a country of 18 million people; 80 percent 
residing in rural areas, most of whom are peasants and nomadic tribes- 
people. While an estimated 90 percent of the population (98 percent of 
women) are illiterate, the economic developments and advanced ideas of 
the "outside" world could not be kept permanently out of Afghanistan. 


On January 1, 1965, Noor Mohammed Taraki and Babrak Karmal 
founded the People's Democratic Party (PDP) of Afghanistan. While 
not explicitly a Marxist-Leninist party, the PDP developed a Marxist- 
Leninist analysis of Afghanistan and envisioned a popular democratic 
regime based on the small working class and the large peasantry as the 
first revolutionary stage in moving the country step by step towards 
socialism. The party identified U.S. imperialism as the center of world 
reaction and saw their struggle as part of the worldwide struggle against 

The Afghan party appears to have been relatively undeveloped 
politically and organizationally in its early years. In general, it could be 
termed a pro-Soviet party. Within it two conflicting tendencies emerged 
fairly soon. One was headed by Karmal, the other by Taraki. A shepherd's 
son, well-known as a poet and journalist in Afghanistan, Taraki was the 
more significant figure. He became the party's first secretary-general and 
a majority of the PDP followed his leadership. For some time after the 
party's formation the two figures headed up separate organizations 
which, while cooperating with each other, maintained their in- 
dependence from each other. It is difficult to discern exact ideological 
and political line differences and it appears that the split was fueled by 
some degree of personal animosity and subjectivism. At any rate, 
Karmal's faction seems to have stressed a broad national front and a 
possible "constitutional path." This coincided with the general re- 
visionist line promulgated by the CPSU at the time. Not surprisingly, 
Karmal was viewed as the more steadfastly pro-Soviet of the two. Taraki 
was influenced more broadly in his development as a Marxist, in 
particular by the Indian communist movement. His faction appeared to 
place greater stress on party organization and gaining a firm base among 
the workers. In any case, the two factions together, during the 60' s and 
70's, managed to gain a substantial base within the urban areas among 
students, intellectuals, workers and portions of the armed forces. 
However, the PDP's political and organizational presence in the rural 
areas appears to have remained negligible, a shortcoming the com- 
munists would pay for later. 

A devastating famine in 1971-72 brought on a political crisis which 
culminated in 1973, when Mohammed Daoud overthrew the monarchy 
in Kabul. Both Taraki and Karmal forces supported the move although 


Karmal's group was more prominent. While the PDP was not ready to 
make its own move for power, its support to Daoud was apparently 
decisive in toppling the old regime. However, the old ruling classes 
remained intact and quickly reasserted their interests over the early 
progressive leanings of the Daoud camp. The communists were soon 
disenfranchised once again and faced increasing government perse- 
cution as the years went on. 

But during his five year reign, Daoud did nothing to solve the 
intensifying contradictions in Afghanistan. In fact, the problems 
worsened. Unemployment mounted and an estimated 1 million Afghans 
emigrated from the country to look for work. Most of these went to Iran. 
To shore up the economy and the regime, Daoud encouraged imperialist 
investment, tying the country more and more to loans from the World 
Bank, the Shah of Iran, etc. As Taraki was to note subsequently, "The 
foreign policy of Daoud's regime assumed increasingly the form of 
dealing, collusion and surrender to imperialism." Meanwhile the left was 
busy galvanizing the popular opposition. 

In 1 977, the split in the communist movement was healed and Taraki 
and Karmal joined forces. Undoubtedly with Soviet encouragement, the 
party was organizationally reunited, although subsequent events would 
show the unity achieved to have been quite fragile and superficial. 

The political crisis in Afghanistan came to a head early in 1 978. Mass 
demonstrations and strikes were increasingly being organized among the 
urban populace— especially in Kabul. The radicalized section of the 
military was beginning to stir openly. The final confrontation was 
triggered off when a leading communist was assasinated. Fifteen 
thousand people turned the funeral into a mass protest against Daoud, 
who responded by arresting Taraki, Karmal and five other opposition 

The left's response to this provocation was the military coup of April 
27. The word "coup" here must be explained, however, since it generally 
suggests some palace intrigue behind the backs of the masses. The action 
was actually on a very large-scale, led by the dissident army officers who 
were able to join the growing mass dissatisfaction with a portion of the 
armed forces. Advanced weapons were used in the assault on the regime. 

The fighting that developed at the time was quite heavy with total 
casualties estimated at somewhere between 2,000 and 10,000 killed and 
many more injured. Nevertheless, the popular base for this action was 
still quite limited. Its support came almost solely from the urban masses 
in a largely peasant, semi-feudal country. 


Taraki, whose release from prison was the first political act of the 
insurrectionists, immediately assumed the presidency of the country. 
His new government embarked on a program of major reforms designed 


to deal with the economic crisis and move the country towards socialism. 
The state moved to assume more direct responsibility for overseeing the 
nation's industry, expropriating some and establishing more rigorous 
regulations for others. Foreign insurance companies and many foreign 
trade agencies (including the Peugeot franchise) were simply eliminated. 

But the most drastic changes were those affecting the countryside. A 
program of extensive land reform was launched. A seven-acre maxi- 
mum for land holdings was announced with landless peasants to share in 
the confiscated estates. Taraki also issued a decree cancelling the loans 
payable to usurers and revoking mortgages negotiated before 1974 by 
persons with little or no land. 

Clearly these moves were designed to build a popular peasant base for 
the regime and to weaken the position of the mullahs (most of whom 
were large landholders) and the landlord class. But it also seems as 
though the regime was not as capable of carrying out these measures in 
the countryside as it was of announcing them — particularly in the more 
remote border regions of the country where access in general is difficult. 
Revolutionary decrees were obviously no substitute for an armed party 
structure in the countryside. 

At the same time, Taraki moved to eliminate some of the most 
reactionary vestiges of feudal customs and culture. A new marriage law 
outlawed the traditional custom of bride-bartering in which a woman was 
given in marriage by her father in exchange for money or commodities. It 
also outlawed marriage or engagement for women under the age of 1 6 
and men under the age of 18. Compulsory education for women was 
instituted for the first time. 

These economic and social measures were, naturally, fiercely op- 
posed by the landlords and mullahs. But with the regime's inability to 
carry out these measures effectively— and likewise with its inability to 
mount an effective challenge to the hold of feudal and reactionary 
religious ideology on the rural masses — the reactionaries were in a good 
position to rally a section of the rural population to a "holy war" (a 
"jihad") against communism. 

"The government of Noor Mohammed Taraki has been pushing ahead 
with the makings of a Marxist program," noted The Economist, the fairly 
reliable British journal, in February of 1979, "even though this has 
brought it into direct conflict with Islamic mullahs and their con- 
servative followers . . . whose aims are to get women back into purdah 
and bring Afghanistan's economy and law into line with the dictates of 
Islam." {Purdah is the word denoting the entire system for the exclusion 
of women from public life.) 

But the religious motivations of the mullahs cannot be readily 
separated from their economic and political concerns. The "dictates of 
Islam" in so far as the economy was concerned would have effectively 


nullified the land reform measures. And the complex feudal family code 
which prevailed in the countryside, a cornerstone of which was the 
subordinate role of women, provided an immense source of political 
authority for the mullahs and landlords. In the absence of an effective 
force from the central government to carry out and enforce the land 
reforms, landless peasants were understandably not prepared to risk the 
perils of defying the local authority of the landlords. When the landlords' 
power was backed by the prevailing ideology, it represented a powerful 
force not to be easily dislodged. (This is a telling reconfirmation of the 
theory that in this era only the proletariat and its party is capable of 
leading and sustaining the class struggle in the countryside.) 

Every revolutionary social transformation gives rise to a counter- 
revolutionary reaction from those who are dispossessed. In the mangled 
ideological jargon of capitalism, these counter-revolutionaries are usual- 
ly cited as "freedom fighters." And to the imperialists they undoubtedly 
are. The rightwing Cuban terrorists are surely fighting for the freedom of 
U.S. capital once again to dominate that island nation, just as the 
"freedom fighters" who licked their chops on Taiwan for more than 20 
years yearning to recapture China for Chiang Kai-shek and imperialism 
were fighting for the freedom of capitalist exploitation. 

It is not surprising, therefore, that the Afghan counter-revolution 
should be described in similar terminology these days. The ironic aspect 
of this designation is underscored, however, when "communists" permit 
themselves the same freedom to indulge their fantasies. Unfortunately, 
the class collaborationist essence of "left" opportunism does not seem to 
flinch at labeling counter-revolution "progressive" so long as it has an 
anti-Soviet aspect. 

But the actual character of this "progressive" counter revolution is 
becoming more and more difficult to justify. The evidence now is being 
supplied not by pro-communist or pro-Soviet sources. The bourgeois 
media itself, possibly unable to hide its underlying ideological premises, 
is doing this job. A New York Times report from Pakistan dated 
February 8, 1980, offers the following appraisal of the Afghan 

"Land reform attempts undermined their village chiefs. Portraits of 
Lenin threatened their religious leaders. But it was the Kabul revolu- 
tionary government's granting of new rights to women that pushed 
orthodox Moslem men in the Pashtoon villages of eastern Afghanistan 
into picking up their guns .... 

" 'The government said our women had to attend meetings and our 
children had to go to schools,' said Shahab Uddin, a 40-year-old farmer 
who fought and then fled eight months ago. 'This threatens our religion. 
We had to fight.' . . . 

"For the Pashtoon villagers, such notions were deeply offensive. For 


the mullahs, the religious leaders, who have traditionally interpreted 
Islam for their villagers, the reform effort were directly threatening. They 
urged their followers to fight. 

" 'The government imposed various ordinances allowing women 
freedom to marry anyone they choose without their parents' consent,' 
said the former headmaster who has adopted the fighting name of 
'Zamari' .... 

"It was on the first anniversary of the April revolution in which Mr. 
Taraki came to power that Shinakai village women were asked to attend 
a meeting at the Khalq party center. 'The moment the women were 
invited to the meeting, the fighting started,' said Zamari. The village men 
met secretly, he said, and organized an attack." 

Small wonder that the Reuters correspondent in the area would 
conclude that "The guerrillas are largely Moslem fundamentalists 
opposed to radical social changes." 

In addition, the counter-revolution clearly had some favorable con- 
ditions in which to develop. The new regime's popular base was not 
secure in the countryside where the majority of the population lived. 
Many regions were relatively inaccessible. In two critical border areas- 
Pakistan in the east and Iran in the west — the counter-revolutionaries 
had rear bases for both ideological and material support. 

There was also an economic base for the development of a counter- 
revolutionary war. The Economist notes (April 21, 1979): "The war 
inside Afghanistan does seem to be financed increasingly with the 
proceeds of the illegal opium trade. Feudal Afghan landlords, whose 
holdings are threatened by the Taraki government, are bringing their 
poppy crops into Pakistan and using the proceeds to buy arms in the town 
of Drara .... The arms merchants of Drara report that business is 

But this was much more than a commercial transaction. The govern- 
ment of Pakistan could not help but be aware of this activity. Its 
own fears of internal social upheaval were reinforced by the events in 
Afghanistan (ideas do leap over borders) especially since certain of its 
national minorities resided in both countries. There can be no doubt, 
therefore, that the Pakistani government was actively involved in 
supplying the Afghan rebels. It would also appear that China was an 
important source of the arms and may even have sent military instructors 
to help train the counter-revolutionary forces. Direct U.S. involvement 
has been harder to pin down, but the U. S . has not denied that some covert 
CIA activity was also involved. In short, the new revolutionary 
government had to face the fact that there existed a substantial material 
basis for the development of a counter-revolutionary war enjoying 
widespread and diverse international backing. 

Everyone apparently was in the field, staking out their prospects in the 
Afghanistan situation. Where was the USSR in all of this? Although the 


Soviets undoubtedly had foreknowledge of the 1978 revolution, there is 
no evidence that they took any direct or active role in it. If anything, the 
USSR has displayed a general reluctance to risk any major alteration in 
the status quo of this volatile' region, so close to its borders. However, 
despite its caution and hesitation, once the revolution came to power, the 
USSR moved quickly to assist in the consolidation of power. It did this 
through substantial economic and military assistance, certainly with an 
eye towards cementing the new government's pro-Moscow leanings. 
Afghanistan had been receiving Soviet assistance for many years prior to 
the revolution, being in fact, the highest per capita recipient of Soviet aid. 
Consequently, the new assistance was built upon this foundation. The 
imperialists knew that the post-1978 Soviet aid had a qualitatively 
different political significance, but had a difficult time making a big 
drama out of it in international propaganda. Meanwhile, within six 
months after the revolution, the Afghans signed a 20-year Treaty of 
Friendship and Cooperation with the USSR. Forty new economic and 
trade agreements were signed and Soviet military advisors and equip- 
ment arrived to re-organize and bolster the Afghan army. 

However, the Soviet's main attention was rivited on the broader 
political and military alignments threatening to engulf the Afghan 
revolution. Their commitment to the Afghan proletariat grew in direct 
proportion to those who rose up to oppose it. While China and Pakistan's 
activities were viewed as mere irritants, the Soviet's real concern was 
that the U.S. imperialists were orchestrating the counter-revolution from 
behind the scenes. When the Iranian revolution broke out— the Soviet 
course on Afghanistan was set— to defend the revolutionary government 
in Afghanistan is to defend the vital interests of the USSR. Dare we call 
this proletarian internationalism without doing serious disservice to the 

It would appear that the Taraki government did not firmly grasp the 
severity of the internal problems and how they intersected with the 
international contention. The revolution had no sooner triumphed, then 
the fragile ranks of the communists were further weakened at a time when 
history presented its most difficult tasks. The split re-emerged in the 
party within three months, with the Taraki faction gaining dominance. 
The Karmal faction was broken up and scattered, and its leaders were 
shipped off to peripheral diplomatic posts. Karmal was sent as am- 
bassador to Czechoslovakia. This was apparently an example of 
an attempt to settle a pressing political and ideological difference 
within the party by superficial organizational means. However, what 
is clear is that no amount of wishful thinking can simplify this inner-party 
struggle and have it fall neatly into the mold of the international 
split. The Karmal/Taraki split was not along Moscow/Peking lines. 
The Afghan Maoists amounted to a couple of small groupings who quite 
early consolidated a left sectarian stance. Consequently, they never 


became a substantial political force in the country compared to the 
People's Democratic Party. And evidently there was a vast discrepancy 
between their line and practice; they failed to unfold anything ap- 
proaching the Chinese model of a people's war in the countryside. 

It is a reasonable speculation, in hindsight, that Karmal's faction 
exercised a somewhat moderating force within the People's Democratic 
Party. After the Karmal faction was broken up, party policy moved readi- 
ly into ultra-left errors. The net effects of these policies was to drive the 
middle forces in the countryside closer to the reactionaries and to leave 
the party's own natural supporters in the rural areas relatively isolated 
and with insufficient power. A major portion of the responsibility for the 
handling of the internal contradictions must be attributed to Hafizullah 
Amin, the "hard-line" foreign minister of the Taraki government who 
emerged as the strongman of the regime in April 1979, when he took over 
the post of prime minister. Amin's response to the internal contradictions 
was to press even further with the various reform measures and 
to increasingly rely upon military force when more education and 
persuasion was called for. This, in turn, gave rise to a great dissatis- 
faction within the armed forces where junior officers and the rank-and- 
file became more and more demoralized at the prospect of waging a civil 
war not just against landlords but also against sections of the rural 
masses. The characterization of his politics as "ultra-left" seems 
accurate. They certainly led to increased de stabilization of the regime. 
This must clearly be attributed principally to tactical line errors, since 
the program itself deserved widespread popular backing. By mid- 
summer, however, the situation was getting dangerous. A series of 
purges had weakened the armed forces and, at Amin's command, 
thousands of political opponents and critics of the regime were need- 
lessly executed. 

Moscow, meanwhile, was urging Taraki, who was still the nominal 
head of state, to take steps to broaden the political base of the 
government and to adopt a more cautious approach in the unfolding of 
the various economic and social reforms. Taraki attended the Con- 
ference of Non-Aligned Nations in Havana early in September and 
stopped off in Moscow on his way home. It was during this meeting that 
Soviet leaders probably urged Taraki to take a new and more decisive 
course. They proposed— and Taraki apparently agreed— that Karmal 
and his associates should be brought back and Amin ousted. It was clear 
that this could not be arranged peaceably. 

But the effort to remove Amin backfired. Somehow the prime minister 
got wind of the scheme and was able to turn the tables on Taraki. In a 
subsequent bloody shoot-out, Taraki and his closest followers were 
killed. Amin assumed absolute control of the country. Karmal wisely 
decided to stay in Czechoslovakia. Once again a comment from The 


Economist (September 22, 1 979) shortly after these events: "Mr. Amin 
is perhaps the most hated man in the country; he is held responsible for 
most of the excesses of the communist regime since it came to power." 

In the months that followed, the situation went from bad to worse. The 
rural insurgency grew and, as the possibility of its success loomed on the 
horizon for the first time, it was more openly fueled by Pakistan and 
China. The U.S. was sabre-rattling next door before the Ayatollah 
Khomeini. Amin, increasingly desperate, called for Soviet troops to 
come in to help stabilize the situation. When they did, Moscow saw no 
reason to use their presence to maintain Amin in power — especially 
since his policies were clearly a principal cause of the weakness of the 
government. Karmal was brought back from Prague (it is not clear 
exactly when), Amin was eliminated and the Soviet Union took direct 
responsibility for securing the new regime and bringing the insurgency to 

A telling commentary on Amin's three-month reign of terror is offered 
by a Reuters correspondent from Kabul writing on January 24, 1 980 — a 
report made more significant by the fact that during this period the 
bourgeois media were trying to prevent any possible justification for the 
Soviet intervention to be registered. "It is generally accepted that the 
Afghan people were relieved to emerge from the shadow of President 
Amin, whose three months of iron rule and fierce pursuit of Marxist 
doctrine alienated all classes of Afghan society. After ousting Noor 
Mohammed Taraki, the country's first Marxist leader last September, 
Mr. Amin bewildered the Afghan people with decree after decree that 
discarded Moslem traditions built up over centuries. Mr. Amin's rigid 
adherence to Marxist agrarian reform, his drive on illiteracy and his 
readiness to push through his programs by force met with mounting 
resistance and stirred up a full-scale insurgency in the country." 

In summary, then, we can note that the Afghan revolution launched in 
April 1 978, was in grave danger of being lost almost two years later as 
the result of three factors: 

1. A growing counter-revolutionary movement in the countryside 
sparked by the resistance of landlords and Islamic fundamentalists to the 
programs of land reform and social change of the revolution. 

2. Increasing support to the insurgency by Pakistan and China. 

3. An ultra- left line, particularly developed and pursued by Amin, 
which was alienating the masses and adding additional fuel to the 
counter- re vol utionaries . 

That these contradictions were unfolding in the larger context of U.S. 
imperialism's deepening crisis in the Middle East— precipitated by the 
collapse of the Shah of Iran — gives broader significance to the Af- 
ghanistan situation. The revolutionary gains of the Afghan masses 
were in real danger of being reversed; U.S. imperialism would utilize the 


reversal to strengthen its position in the area. Only the action of the 
USSR could realistically check the crisis and reverse the trend by 
committing enough political and military support on the side of the 
Afghan revolution. It is an inescapable conclusion that Soviet in- 
tervention in Afghanistan objectively constitutes a progressive act and 
serves the interests of both the Afghan revolution and the world 

That the obvious concerns of the Soviet government are more 
bound up with the Soviet state's immediate military security than with 
any consistent commitment to the revolutionary aspirations of the 
masses of Afghanistan is a reflection of the revisionist line centered in 
the CPSU. But the fact that the state interests of the Soviet Union 
intersect with the revolutionary struggle in Afghanistan speaks to 
the fact that the fundamental contradiction of our epoch remains that 
between socialism and capitalism and that this contradiction operates in 
life independently of the consciousness of those whose actions 
express it. 

As was said at the outset, every revolution has bound up within it, in 
varying degrees, the principal questions of our historical epoch. The 
revolution in Afghanistan, and the Soviet Union's role in supporting it, 
must be measured against those questions. 

Is imperialism strengthened or weakened by the forward progress of 
the revolution in Afghanistan? Is imperialism strengthened or weakened 
by the intervention of the Soviet Union which has prevented a 
reactionary counter-revolutionary insurgency from spreading and, most 
likely, succeeding in its objective of bringing down the still fragile 
revolutionary power? 

As Marxist-Leninists we should not expect the imperialists or their 
supporters on the "left" to view these questions the same way that we 
must. Their anguished reactions offer grim testimony to their common 
ideological outlook calling for a "united front against the USSR." How 
ironic that those "communists" who launched their polemic against the 
Soviet Union two decades ago on the ground that the CPSU's revisionist 
line was leading to class collaboration with U.S. imperialism, now 
themselves have become the foremost "left" architects of class 

Nor can we accept the view of those centrists within the Marxist- 
Leninists movement who stand on the "high ground" of moral ab- 
solutism and declaim their fervent support for the revolutionary struggles 
of the world's peoples in the abstract, but would permit the actual, 
concrete struggles to be lost because certain actions do not suit their own 
ideal vision of what should be "permissible" in conducting the class 
struggle. Political questions and real battles, however, do not come 
before the communists in their morally pristine form. They come, as 
always, shaped by the actual workings of history. Their revolutionary 


essence must be found beneath the grime and tarnish in which, 
inevitably, they will be encased. We cannot choose our political 
questions, taking our stands only on those which do not unduly challenge 
the ideological prejudices sowed by centuries of capitalism. 

Rather, we must be prepared to face the real questions of class struggle 
as they actually appear in the world, knowing that it is precisely at those 
junctures when the class enemy unleashes the loudest of his ideological 
barrages and calls on the hoary cliches of jingoism and national 
chauvinism that the mettle of the communists, as those who uphold the 
overall and long term interests of the working class and socialism, is 
really tested. 

Afghanistan is neither the first nor the last such test that the communist 
movement in the U.S. and the world will face. But it is a critical one 
precisely because U.S. imperialism has chosen to make it so.